Accuracy in Media

Months after publishing a book on President Obama’s health care law, the Washington Post is still defending the divisive bill.

“Individual stories are weapon of choice in fight over health-care law,” goes the title of a recent article at the Washington Post. And the Washington Post would know: the article itself showcases the “weapon of choice” in question, alleging to explain how the White House uses individual stories to promote Obamacare. In actuality, the article seems to act as a cover for the reporter to throw in an individual story to promote Obamacare.

The article follows the work of one Elizabeth Prescott, an employee of Families USA. The Post describes Families USA as merely an “advocacy group,” neglecting to mention exactly what the organization advocates.

The article follows Prescott’s work to find “poignant stories of Americans who might lose their health coverage under the Republican plan,” work that involved “poring over hundreds of files. Among them were heart-wrenching tales of hardship faced by people whose care is dependent on Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled” (emphasis added).  Yet, despite how “heart-wrenching” those tales were, Prescott admittedly sorted through “hundreds” of files before finding just five she could potentially run with.

The article goes on to elaborate on how Democrats are “relentlessly publicizing the cases of ordinary Americans who stand to lose if the law is modified or repealed,” while taking care to point out that “the compelling individual story” is “a tool honed by former President Ronald Reagan.” His appeal to Reaganites seems to be an excuse for the Democrats’ current tactics to promote support for Obamacare.

Later, the article spends a paragraph explaining how Republicans have used the personal stories of “hostile” business groups and employers “to testify at hearings about the burdens the law might impose on them” (emphasis added). In the words of the article, those “hostile” employers complain about “burdens” when there are “heart-wrenching tales of hardship” going on.

The “news” article ends by detailing a conversation Prescott has with a potential storyteller. Aizenman describes Prescott as having “chic” hair, and mentions how her “voice exuded warmth” as she asked the individual in question about her Obamacare story.

Examine the following excerpt from the end of the piece (emphasis added):

“I would really like to tell the White House about your case,” she told McKinney. “Would that be all right?”

“Oh, please do. If I could help just one person to have what Ron was able to have .?.?.” McKinney choked up for a moment. “Well, it would be such a blessing.”

Prescott blinked back tears. Sometimes, colleagues say, she has to take a break after hearing an account that is particularly sad.

But as she hung up and began transferring her notes into the database, Prescott merely gave a sorrowful smile.

“I think she’ll make a great spokesperson,” she said. “She was so concise and eloquent about the difference Medicaid made for her and her husband. I didn’t have to pull it out of her at all.”

Indeed. The real news story here isn’t that Democrats are using individual stories to promote Obamacare; the real story is that Democrats are using a handful of stories that have to be sorted from “hundreds” of stories that don’t showcase Obamacare as a good thing. And even more important is the actual news that Families USA is openly “pull[ing]” stories “out of” people in order to promote the current president’s agenda.

Of course, it’s not news that the Washington Post is biased against “hostile” employers and in favor of those “sorrowful” but smiling, “chic”-haired, tear-blinking-back nonprofit workers struggling to “pull” “heart-wrenching” stories “out of” recipients of government welfare.

(That Prescott, Aizenman and, for that matter, the Obama Administration seem to view Medicaid as a gold standard of health care is an irony lost on all of the above. “For example, almost 30 percent of doctors would not take Medicaid patients in 2006,” Christopher T. Warden wrote in Voodoo Anyone? How to Understand Economics Without Really Trying, Accuracy in Academia’s textbook. “And half of all the doctors who accepted Medicaid patients said finding a referral for these patients was ‘very difficult.’”—ed.)

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